Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jack Sadler
Special to the Observer 

Ralph Mechur Re-Appointed to School Board

 

January 19, 2015



After publicly interviewing nine applicants over the course of nearly three hours, the SMMUSD Board of Education voted to re-appoint architect Ralph Mechur to the school board. Mechur was chosen to fill the seat of recently elected State Senator Ben Allen. Senator Allen was forced to vacate his seat on the school board as a result of his election to the state legislature. In the same November election Senator Allen won a seat in Sacramento, Mechur lost his re-election campaign to the school board by less than 500 votes.

At Thursday’s board meeting, the district offered each of the nine candidates time to address the board and respond to four uniform questions. The questions covered such topics as private vs. public education and centralized school funding. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mechur received the four votes needed to re-secure a seat.

Mechur, by trade an architect, was appointed to the board in 2007 and elected back in 2010. His contributions to the district include providing guidance to Measure BB construction projects and spearheading local parcel tax initiatives to prevent budget cuts during the recession. Mechur’s partner, Linda Greenberg, is the Executive Director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, which raises money to supplement the district’s budget. At the board meeting, Mechur received support from the vast majority of speakers during the “public comments” section of the meeting.

Parent Pati Braun appealed to the board to appoint Mechur to the vacant seat. She cited his reputation with district teachers and commitment to environmental friendliness as among the reasons to re-appoint him. She also citied his performance at the midterm election.

“Perhaps the most compelling reason to keep Ralph on the board is not one reason but perhaps 11,522 reasons. Those are the number of votes Mechur got in the last election…if there were five open spots Ralph would have gotten that spot.” Braun said.

Mechur did, however, receive backlash from two Malibu advocates who accused him of cronyism and ignoring Malibu’s interests. One Malibu supporter disrupted Mechur’s swearing in and angrily approached the board, despite insistences to stop. Malibu parents and advocates referenced Malibu High’s PCB scare, centralized funding and general mistreatment as reasons for their outrage.

During the meeting Mechur faced competition from local PTA Presidents, attorneys and concerned parents. At the conclusion of the candidate interviews, the board nominated four members for to be voted upon. These included local attorney Tom Larmore, Lincoln PTA President Jon Kean, Malibu advocate Jennifer deNicola and Ralph Mechur. Oscar de la Torre who nominated deNicola did not vote for her.

After receiving votes from Maria Leon-Vazquez, Jose Escarce , Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Oscar de la Torre, Mechur was sworn in to his new position on the board. Mechur’s appointment will be provisional for thirty days pending a petition calling for an election process. Mechur addressed his supporters and detractors following his appointment

“I’m humbled by the support of the community and their faith in me as someone who stands for all children in both our communities” Mechur said. “I’m reaching out to people who feel I wasn’t the best candidate here to meet and to talk together.”

 

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